Tag Archives: private tutoring

Videos of Conference Panel IV: “Private Actors in the Education System”

Chair: Andreas Gestrich (German Historical Institute London)DSC02124


Geetha Nambissan (Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi)

Hania Sobhy (Orient-Institut Beirut)


In some regions, non-state actors have had a long (colonial) tradition in the education system. Currently, probably due to failures of government-run infrastructures, a variety of new actors (business-oriented and non-profit, national and international) are coming into play. In some countries, the balance of public and private investment in the educational sector is tilted to an extent that is criticized as risking a devaluation of the national educational system. Can we observe (regional or even global) trends toward a hierarchization, privatization and commercialization of education for both the elites and the masses? How do liberalization discourses in other fields of society impact upon these developments and the corresponding norms and values? What is the role of religious entities in the educational sector?

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Educational Privatization and the Collapse of State Institutions under Mubarak

Conference Paper to be presented by Hania Sobhy

Hania Sobhy is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Orient-Institut Beirut where she is writing up her research on Pro-Revolution Mobilization in Egyptian Elections 2012-2014. In 2012-2013, she was a postdoctoral Fellow with the EUME program of the Forum Transregionale Studien

The vast majority of Egyptian students attend public schools and free universal education remains a constitutionally enshrined right. However, 50-80% of students attend regular private tutoring in most subjects in a highly segregated system. This places a huge financial burden on households so that private spending on education now exceeds public spending. Despite this duplicated expenditure, most teachers remain grossly underpaid and the quality of schooling has declined to the extent that education is routinely declared ‘non-existent’ by Egyptians: mafeesh taleem.

The implications of this ‘privatization-by-tutoring’ do not only include poor quality, higher inequality and resource waste. The very content of youth schooling experiences has also been fundamentally altered. In addition to ‘teaching to the exam’ in key subjects, without attention to the actual development of knowledge and skills, there has been an effective elimination of the ‘activities’ subjects that not linked to student grades; such as music, sports, arts, theatre, civics and school trips. As students increasingly obtain their education on the market and attend school irregularly, this has led to the effective elimination of the school itself as a key arena for youth socialization and the production of nationhood, especially at the secondary level. The condition of public schooling therefore exemplifies the privatization, informalization and dysfunction of state institutions under Mubarak; whether as providers of social services or as sites for the production of citizenship.

In this brief presentation, my aim is to explain, through figures and data, and through live examples based on my fieldwork, what it actually means that, with 17 million students and 2 million employees, there is ‘no education’ in Egypt; and to bring to light the different manifestations of this educational dysfunction in a highly tracked and unequal system.

The Informal Education Sector in Egypt: Between State, Market and Civil Society

Research Project (to be discussed at the Winter Academy) by Sarah Hartmann.

Sarah Hartmann is a doctoral candidate at the Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies at Freie Universität Berlin. Her research interests include youth, education and social class in the Arab World as well as anthropological and political science approaches to statehood and informality.

This PhD project explores the relationship between Egyptian citizens and the state through an analysis of the widespread practice of private tutoring for school students, i.e. by taking a closer look at the coexistence, interdependence and entanglement of formal institutions and informal practices in the Egyptian education sector. Based on 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Cairo in 2009-2010, it provides a detailed account and analysis of some of the institutions, actors, social relations, and discourses involved in the provision of supplementary tutoring for school students, with a special focus on tutoring centers in lower income neighborhoods of Cairo. Despite its socio-economic and political significance, no in-depth ethnographic study of this phenomenon has been undertaken so far. The project aims to contribute to current debates on statehood and informal institutions in anthropology and political science. While tutoring developed as a coping strategy to compensate for the deficiencies of an underfunded and overburdened public education system, a means for teachers to supplement their meager salaries, and a strategy for students and parents confronted with the pressures of a strongly examination-oriented education system, it has turned into a generalized and deeply engrained feature of Egyptian educational culture during the last decades, with social, economic and political effects and implications that go far beyond the teaching and learning process itself. The ideal of the welfare state is increasingly replaced by neoliberal values of entrepreneurship, consumerism, and the privatization of risk and responsibility, rendering access to education and other services dependent on the financial means of the individual.